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How Cave Hill Cemetery got into the honey business

LOUIVILLE, Kentucky — Cave Hill Cemetery is the final resting place of legendary Kentuckians like Colonel Harland Sanders and Muhammad Ali, but in the last few years the Louisville landmark has broken into a new and bustling marketplace. beekeeping.

What you need to know

  • Louisville’s Cave Hill Cemetery produces its own honey
  • First bottle sold in 2017
  • Thousands of pounds of honey have been produced since then
  • Bottles can be purchased at the Graveyard

Roger Martin, the cemetery’s chief tree keeper for more than 15 years and now chief beekeeper, explained that around 2016, Cave Hill leaders championed the idea of ​​caring for their own bee colony. . Prior to that, an independent beekeeper named Rodolfo Bernal kept bees on the property.

Two bottles of freshly bottled Cave Hill Cemetery honey. (Spectrum News 1/Mason Brighton)

In 2017, the first jar of Cave Hill honey was sold. Since then, the cemetery bees have produced thousands of pounds of raw honey, winning statewide recognition at the 2021 Kentucky State Fair.

“I never thought I would become a beekeeper,” said Martin.

Martin, an arborist by profession, said he didn’t think this was the end of his career, but he’s not complaining. I often remember having to call a beekeeper when I had to.

“After nearly 30 years of working with trees, it’s no surprise that I’ve evolved into a bee and tree man,” said Martin.

These days, Martin and his team take care of the bees all year round. They also educate others about their programs, attend beekeeping conferences, and sell honey at festivals and farmers’ markets.

Brood boxes at Cave Hill Cemetery are home to thousands of bees that produce honey several times a year. (Spectrum News 1/Mason Brighton)

Brood boxes at Cave Hill Cemetery are home to thousands of bees that produce honey several times a year. (Spectrum News 1/Mason Brighton)

From start to finish, the entire honey production and bottling process takes place on site. Their work mostly takes place inside a converted gardener’s hut near the main entrance to the cemetery.

Spectrum News visited the cemetery in late August, right in the middle of the honey harvest. There are gallons of already processed honey ready to be bottled. The processing room is warm and equipped with a dehumidifier.

Martin says that a product must have a certain moisture level to be considered real honey.

Bees make honey inside a wooden frame that is sealed with a “cap”. Cut off the cap and dissolve it in the beeswax. The honey-filled frame is then placed in a machine with an extractor that rotates the frame at high speed. The honey is then released and filtered into a final 5-gallon bucket.

After resting overnight, it is ready for bottling.

“And it’s the freshest bottle of Cave Hill honey in existence,” said Martin, holding a bottle of honey.

It is not unheard of for bees to be kept in cemeteries. Martin said the trend is for more places to start the program.

“There are probably more bees here than we know. Why not benefit from the bees pollinating everything in our garden?” Martin said.

Bottles of Honey from Cave Hill Cemetery are sold on site and are sometimes sold at farmers markets and festivals. Bottles are sold in pound and half pound increments.